Airtightby David Rosenfelt
"You will burn through this novel…non-stop and totally rapt. It's an airtight cinch."Examiner.com
Judge Daniel Brennan is only days away from achieving a seat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals bench when he's brutally stabbed to death in his garage. An army of media and law enforcement descend on the case, and thousands of tips pour in/b>
"You will burn through this novel…non-stop and totally rapt. It's an airtight cinch."Examiner.com
Judge Daniel Brennan is only days away from achieving a seat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals bench when he's brutally stabbed to death in his garage. An army of media and law enforcement descend on the case, and thousands of tips pour in from the public. When one tip leads New Jersey policeman Luke Somers to Steven Gallagher, things quickly go wrongeven though Luke is instantly glorified for solving the case.
"Rosenfelt has earned his crime-novelist pedigree."Entertainment Weekly
But to one man, Luke is no hero. Chris Gallagher raised his brother, Steven, almost single-handedly and, certain that Steven is innocent, he won't rest until he sets the record straight. Thanks to Luke's newfound fame, he's an easy man to find, and Chris quickly makes it clear that Luke's own brother will die if Luke refuses to help clear Steven's name. So begins Luke's desperate attempt to find another suspectany other suspectin Judge Brennan's death. But Luke's investigation might open the door to powerful forces even more dangerous than Chris Gallagher…
"Perfectly controlled suspense."Kirkus Reviews
“The tension is palpable, and the pages fly by in this riveting stand-alone thriller…The voice here is every bit as engaging as in the Carpenter novels, with enough humor to lighten the story without diminishing the suspense. And the ending is a real shocker. Sure to appeal to fans of Harlan Coben and Robert Crais.” Booklist
“As usual, there is plenty of irony, humor, suspense, and affection here…Rosenfelt is, indeed, one of a kind; you will burn through this novel--like all his others--non-stop and totally rapt. It's an airtight cinch.” Examiner.com
“Perfectly controlled suspense.” Kirkus Reviews
“Keep[s] you on the edge of your seat.” Criminal Element
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By David Rosenfelt
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Tara Productions, Inc.
All rights reserved.
The tabloids called it "The Judge-sicle Murder."
It was a ridiculous name for an event so horrific and tragic, but it sold newspapers, and generated web hits, so it stuck.
In the immediate aftermath, very little was known and reported in the media, so they compensated by detailing the same facts over and over. Judge Daniel Brennan had attended a charity dinner earlier that evening at the Woodcliff Lakes Hilton. Judge Brennan generally avoided those type of events whenever he could, but in this case felt an obligation.
The Guest of Honor was Judge Susan Dembeck, who was at that point a sitting judge on the bench of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Since Judge Brennan's nomination to that court was before the Senate and he was replacing the retiring Judge Dembeck, he made the obvious and proper decision to support his future predecessor by attending the event.
Others at the dinner estimated that Judge Brennan left at ten thirty, and that was confirmed by closed-circuit cameras in the lobby. He stopped at a 7-Eleven, five minutes from his Alpine, New Jersey, home, to buy a few minor items. The proprietor of the establishment, one Harold Murphy, said that Judge Brennan was a frequent patron of the store. He said it on the Today show the following morning, in what the network breathlessly promoted as an exclusive interview, which aired seven minutes before Good Morning America's breathlessly promoted exclusive interview with Mr. Murphy.
Among the items that Murphy described Judge Brennan as buying was a Fudgsicle. It was, he said, one of the Judge's weaknesses, regardless of the season. As was the Judge's apparent custom, Murphy said that he started opening the Fudgsicle wrapper while walking to the door, such was his desire to eat it. Murphy seemed to cite this as evidence that the Judge was a "regular guy."
Murphy didn't mention, and wasn't asked, the time that Judge Brennan arrived at the store. It was eleven forty-five, meaning the ten-minute drive from hotel to store had apparently taken an hour and fifteen minutes.
It was ten minutes after midnight when Thomas Phillips, who lived four doors down from Judge Brennan, walked by the Judge's house with his black Lab, Duchess. In that affluent neighborhood, four doors down meant there was almost a quarter mile of separation between the two homes.
The Judge's garage door was open, and his car was sitting inside, with its lights on. This was certainly an unusual occurrence, and Phillips called out the Judge's name a few times. Getting no response, he walked towards the garage.
In the reflected light off the garage wall, he could see the Judge's body, covered in blood that was slowly making its way towards where Phillips was standing. The Fudgsicle, melting but with the wrapper around the stick, was just a few inches from the victim's mouth, a fact that Phillips related when he gave his own round of exclusive interviews.
The murder of a judge would be a very significant story in its own right, especially when the victim was up for a Court of Appeals appointment. But the fact that this particular judge was "Danny" Brennan elevated it to a media firestorm.
Brennan was forty-two years old and a rising star in the legal system. It was a comfortable role for him to play, as he had considerable experience as a rising star.
He was a phenom as a basketball player at Teaneck High School, moving on to Rutgers, where he earned first-team All America status. Rather than head to the NBA as a first-round draft choice after one season, which he could certainly have done, he chose instead to stay all four years. He then pulled a "Bill Bradley," and went on to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar.
When his studies had concluded, he finally moved on to the NBA, and within two years was the starting point guard for the Boston Celtics. It was during a play-off game against the Orlando Magic that on one play he cut right, while his knee cut left. He tore an ACL and MCL, which pretty much covers all the "CLs" a knee contains, and despite intensive rehab for a year and a half, he was never the same.
Confronted with physical limitations but no mental ones, Daniel Brennan went to Harvard Law, and began a rapid rise up the legal ladder.
A rise that ended in a garage, in a pool of blood and melted Fudgsicle.
"I can't make it tonight," I said.
I'm sure that my brother, Bryan, heard the news while lying in bed, because his response sounded a little groggy. "And you woke me at seven o'clock in the morning to tell me that?"
"I feel terrible about that, especially since I've been up all night. Don't you work?"
"It's Saturday, big brother."
"You don't rip off the indigent on Saturdays?" I asked, unable to help myself. It wasn't that I lacked respect for Bryan's position as an investment banker; the truth was I really didn't even understand what it involved. But it made for an easy target.
"It's way too early for occupational banter," Bryan said. "Sorry you can't join us." Bryan certainly couldn't have been surprised that I was backing out of the dinner; my cancellation rate had to be well over sixty percent. He continued. "Julie will be disappointed."
"No she won't," I said, without much conviction. As always, it was impossible for me to have any idea what Julie might be thinking, which was unfortunate, because it was probably the thing I involuntarily pondered most.
In my mind's eye I could see Bryan turning over in bed and talking to his wife, who herself I'm sure was just waking up. She was wearing a white nightgown, low at the neckline. My mind's eye often has a very specific imagination. "Julie, Lucas can't make dinner," Bryan said. "Are you disappointed?"
Bryan spoke back into the phone. "You were right; she's delighted you're not coming. What's going on, Lucas? Why can't you make it?"
Bryan was one of the few people on the planet who called me Lucas; to my friends and coworkers I was "Luke"; to people I arrested I was "asshole." "Lucas" sounded formal, which I suppose made sense, since my brother is way more proper than I am. I almost expected him to call me by the name our parents stuck me with, Lucas Isaiah Somers.
"You didn't hear what happened?" I asked.
"Last night, just before midnight."
"I went to sleep at ten thirty," he said.
"Danny Brennan was murdered."
Bryan went silent, probably mentally replaying his connections to Judge Brennan in his mind. Then, "I didn't know him that well, just met him at a few charity dinners, but I liked him. This is awful. Is anyone in custody?"
"No." I could hear him, in the background, telling Julie what had happened.
"Julie wants to know if it's your case."
It's the exact question I knew she would ask, especially since it might wind up her case as well as a prosecutor. "Technically, but not that anyone would notice. Every FBI agent in the United States is either here or on the way. Apparently, when the President appoints a judge to the Appeals Court, the plan is that they are supposed to remain alive."
"So you local hicks should stick to traffic tickets and picking up jaywalkers?"
"Not according to the Captain, which brings me back to why I can't make dinner tonight."
"OK. Good luck," Bryan said. Then, "How did he die?"
"Stabbed to death in his garage when he got home. Thirty-seven wounds."
He paused again to relay the information to Julie, and I heard her say, "Sounds like he pissed off an amateur."
I knew exactly what she was talking about. Professional killers rarely used knives, and when they did they were precise and efficient. A blade in the heart, or a slice across the neck. Thirty-seven stab wounds meant the killer was an amateur and was venting fury. It was an emotional killing, or at least made to look like one.
I extricated myself from the call and walked over to the precinct meeting room. By that time the FBI had already assumed control of the investigation and had established a tip line. This was an irritant to my boss, Captain Charles Barone of the New Jersey State Police, though that in itself was hardly a news event. Not many days went by that something or someone didn't irritate Captain Charles Barone.
"We are going to catch this guy," is how he started the meeting he had called of the entire squad. That was no surprise; it was how he started pretty much every meeting about a specific case. But this time he doubled down. "All vacations are hereby canceled, and overtime is authorized and expected. We've got the home field advantage."
He was referring to the fact that we knew the terrain; we lived in it, while the Feds were visitors. It was bravado, and most of it was false. Everyone in the room, including Barone, knew we were operating at a huge disadvantage. The FBI had taken over the crime scene, and was doing all the forensics. They would also be getting most of the tips, especially since a reward had already been established. It may have been our home field, but it felt like we were busing in from out of town.
Barone was right about one thing, though. Our connection to the area was a factor working in our favor. We had informants that we used with some frequency, and if those people had anything to share, they'd be leery of going to the Feds. They'd come to us, or they'd keep their mouths shut.
Assignments were given out, and I was chosen to lead the effort. I doubt if anyone was surprised by that, since even though I was one of four people at my rank, I was considered by most people to be the number two man in the department. Barone and I had worked together in one way or another for eleven of my sixteen years on the force, and he trusted me. Sometimes I wish he didn't; I'd get more sleep.
In any event, my position of leadership on this case was not something anyone would resent. Not only would my colleagues have expected it, but they'd be delighted they weren't stuck doing it.
The effort that I was going to lead would mostly include following up on those tips that were already coming in. It was a smaller amount than would usually be expected for a case that had generated this much publicity, a sure sign that most people were contacting the FBI. But some people still had it as their first instinct to call their local police, and those calls would be routed to us.
After the meeting, Barone called me into his office. "I just got off the phone with the Governor. He called me directly. He wants us to be the ones to catch this guy."
"Thanks for sharing that," I said. "Now I'm motivated."
"Don't be a wiseass, Somers. This is important."
"Right," I said. "The Governor wants to be President."
He nodded. "And the Captain wants to be chief."
I always found it refreshing that he acknowledged that, at least to me. He'd never say it to anyone else; it made me feel trusted. "So let's catch the prick," I said.
"Do we have a chance?" he asked.
He frowned. "That's not what I wanted to hear."
"Come on, the guy would have to fall in our lap."
"Did I mention that that was not what I wanted to hear?" he asked.
"OK, how's this? We'll get him, Captain. We're closing in on him right now."
"Good. That's what I told the Governor."
Sometimes, not often, an investigation just seems to fall into place.
This was one of those times.
The first thing I did was utilize the services of the state prosecutor's office to get a list of the cases Judge Brennan presided over in the last ten years. There are very few jobs someone can have that piss people off as effectively as judges, and sometimes the pissed-off parties have years to sit in a cell and plot revenge.
I had reached a level within the department where I didn't have a partner anymore, since most of my work was done on the inside, supervising other officers. This was a mixed blessing. On the minus side, I actually missed being on the street, closer to the action. The reason it was a mixed blessing was that sitting behind a desk significantly reduced the chance of my being shot at. Cops who are not in action are rarely killed in action.
For the Brennan case, I chose, if not a partner, then someone who I could count on to be a very willing, very competent slave. There would be quite a bit to delegate, and it was also my intention to go out on the street if a serious opportunity presented itself.
My choice was Emmit Jenkins, who at forty-eight years old had me by twelve years, and who at two hundred and sixty pounds had me by seventy-five pounds. Emmit was a walking contradiction; he was simultaneously the toughest, meanest, and most pleasant guy I've ever known.
Emmit was a twenty-two-year vet, and loved his job for every single minute of it. He had turned down four opportunities for promotions that I knew of, and probably as many more that I didn't. Emmit wanted to be where the danger and excitement was, and he excelled in those circumstances.
Emmit had the list of Brennan's cases, and therefore his potential enemies, within two hours of the request. The reason it was so quick, he informed me, was that the prosecutor's office had already prepared the same list for the FBI.
I went through the list personally, paying special attention to two groups. Those people who went to prison and got out in the past year were a priority, as were those who recently fared poorly in Brennan's court. Personally, if I were convicted of a felony, I'd be more pissed at the prosecutor, or witnesses, or jurors than at the judge, so I considered the revenge motive a long shot. But for the time being it was all we had.
As a Superior Court judge, Brennan handled a wide variety of cases, everything from high-level business fraud to low-level drug offenses. He had his share of violent crimes as well, four murders and thirty-one assaults, most of them armed, in the last five years. I instructed Emmit to find out which of the convicted defendants were out of jail.
Of course, even someone in jail could be responsible for planning the murder, since most violent felons didn't hang around with altar boys or the chess club before they went in. But we had to prioritize; if we went through the obvious candidates and got nothing, then we could widen our search. That's if the Feds hadn't already made an arrest.
There were four criminals who had been sentenced by Judge Brennan and released within the previous year. There were also five people, four males and a female, who were convicted in trials over which Brennan presided during the previous year, who were either out on bail, pending appeal, or awaiting sentencing. The most recent was a twenty-two-yearold named Steven Gallagher, a third offense for crack cocaine possession and use.
"Anything look promising to you?" I asked Emmit.
"Only one way to find out," he said. "Let's run 'em down."
That was Emmit's upbeat way of agreeing that nothing looked promising. "Go get 'em," I said.
"Who can I use?" he asked, meaning which detectives was I giving him permission to work with on this.
"Whoever the hell you want."
He thought for a few moments. "I want Garfield, Miller, Wallace, and Freeman."
"You've got Garfield, Miller, Wallace, and Freeman," I said. It may have sounded like a law firm, but they were actually four of our best officers.
Emmit went out to get started, but came back less than ten minutes later, not nearly enough time to have gotten started with Garfield and Miller, never mind Wallace and Freeman. "We may have something," he said.
"Talk to me."
"We got a tip on the hotline, anonymous, that ID'd a kid named Steven Gallagher as the killer. He's ..."
"The user that Brennan was about to sentence," is how I finished his sentence.
I didn't ask if the tip seemed reliable, since anonymous tips were never reliable, except for the ones that were. They needed to be tracked down, and we were about to do just that with this one.
"Let's go," I said, standing up.
"We're on this one ourselves?" he asked.
"You got other plans?"
He grinned. "Sure don't."
We arranged for backup, and within ten minutes we were on our way to the address Gallagher had given the court. Much to my amazement, a case that had nowhere to go for us now looked to be very possibly promising.
Sometimes, not often, an investigation just seems to fall into place.
Chris Gallagher didn't need a travel agent to book his flight out of Afghanistan.
When you're Marine Force Recon on your third tour, and you're going on leave, there's no need to check expedia.com.
It was actually an emergency leave for Chris, to the extent that it hadn't been planned. But he had plenty of time accrued, and when events transpired as they did, his commanding officer expedited things and did not officially designate it as an emergency. It would have just meant more paperwork, while changing nothing.
The emergency was the arrest and subsequent conviction of Chris's brother, Steven, on a drug offense. He was a repeat offender, and this was simply another chapter in a life going downhill. Unfortunately, it was a life that Chris had spent years trying to protect.
Darlene and Walter Gallagher were killed in a car crash when Chris was fourteen and Steven was seven. The Gallaghers had never made out a will, but that was basically of no consequence, since they had no money and little of value.
Excerpted from Airtight by David Rosenfelt. Copyright © 2013 Tara Productions, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
David Rosenfelt is the Edgar and Shamus Award--nominated author of nine Andy Carpenter novels, most recently Leader of the Pack, and three previous stand-alone thrillers, Heart of a Killer, On Borrowed Time, Don't Tell a Soul, and Down to the Wire. He and his wife live in Maine with the twenty-seven golden retrievers they've rescued and rehabilitated over the years.
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This standalone by the author of the popular Andy Carpenter series is so unlike the humorous dog-centered novels that the reader might think it was written by someone else. But it only proves that a good writer can create excellent fiction on a variety of levels. “Airtight” is a complicated story involving murder and mayhem, good police work, and family loyalty. The plot revolves around the murder of a judge nominated to sit on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, knifed to death in his garage. A tip leads Lt. Luke Somers to the alleged murderer’s home. When the drug user Steven Gallagher raises a gun, Somers puts three bullets in his chest. Gallagher’s brother, Chris, does not believe he was responsible for the murder, and sets up a challenge for Somers to reinvestigate the Brennan killing to prove Steven’s innocence by kidnapping the policeman’s brother, Bryan, and entombing him in a bomb shelter with only seven days worth of air [very early on in the story – no spoiler here]. The book moves at a rapid pace, with considerable action, enhanced by greed and explosions. What will be the outcome is never really clear until the final pages, with no prior groundwork to set the stage for the conclusion. Nevertheless, the novel is very enjoyable, and is recommended.
I have read all the Andy Carpenter books and the five or so previous one-off books that Rosenfelt has put out and have never been disappointed having always given a four or five star rating for each. I can't say that for this book. Judge Brennen is about to rule on an important case involving fracking (a means of getting oil) and is found dead. A tip leads detective Luke Somers to Stephen Gallagher's place. When he gets there he sees Gallagher with a gun and yells at him to put it down. When he gets no response, Luke fires three bullets, killing Gallagher. A bag of bloodied clothing is found and it appears that Gallagher was the judge's killer. Unfortunately, Gallagher's brother Chris doesn't think so. Chris is back on military leave and has a history of violence against "bad" people who had wronged his brother in the past. Chris thinks that Luke went in to Stephen's place with the intent of murdering him. So to get even, he kidnaps Luke's brother Brian and hides him underground with a week's air supply. He then confronts Luke and tells him to re-open the investigation and find the judge's "real" killer or his brother will die when his air supply runs out. That is the premise of the book and it may sound more interesting than it is. For me it wasn't. I struggled with this book. Firstly, Rosenfelt makes it blatantly obvious that Stephen may have been set up with his chapters on the fracking and the people that will benefit from it. I had problems with Luke. Firstly, Luke is not so likeable as most of Rosenfelt's heroes are, having wronged his brother. I found it real hard to find much to like about Luke. I am a bit claustrophic and do not like tales about people stuck in tight spaces with no air. I felt that the story just "hobbled" along and unlike prior books, had no compulsion to pick the book back up once I had put it down. This book in no way influences me getting future Rosenfelt books, as he is still one of my favorite authors. But even great authors sometimes put out "turkey." Read Heart of a Killer instead or one of the author's excellent prior books.
I eagerly awaited David Rosenfelt's new release, AIRTIGHT, but was terribly disappointed. It was a laborious read. It was boringly lengthy due to the undeveloped, flat charterers, simple and disingenuous dialogue, and an implausible and confusing storyline. By the middle of the book, I didn't even care who was the antagonist. I kept reading hoping it would redeem itself, but it did not. This book was substandard compared to all of Mr. Rosenfelt's past publications. I miss the author's Andy Carpenter series!
As with Rosenfelt's other stand-alone novels, Airtight is both witty and suspenseful. It's easy to relate to his lead characters and to get heavily involved with the snappy plot after just a few pages. This is a story filled with plenty of twists. I always look forward to Rosenfelt's novels, as they reflect his wry sense of humor. This is a definite must-read!
David Rosenfelt's books were a wonderful find. They are entertaining and a fast read. Have read everyone of this books now and have enjoyed them all.
Have read 11 of Rosenfelt's "Andy Carpenter" series; this is my first look at his stand-alone stories. Enjoyed every minute of this fast-paced thriller! Glad I tried "Airtight", will read the others. Very entertaining.